Apple Watch 6 could one day help detect Covid-19, if this trial works

Apple Watch series 6
(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple respiratory study is now recruiting participants to determine if the Apple Watch 6 can detect Covid-19 symptoms. Apple announced it would be working in collaboration with the Seattle Flu Study and University of Washington late last year as part of the Apple Watch Series 6 reveal event.

Using the Apple Watch 6’s blood oxygen sensor and heart rate monitor, the study hopes to see if there is a link between changes in those levels and early signs of respiratory illnesses, such as Covid-19. Apple hopes to launch studies in the future that will see if these features could also detect early signs of asthma attacks and heart failure.

If you are interested in getting involved and fulfill the study’s criteria - which includes being 22 or over and living in Seattle in the US - then you can visit the Apple respiratory study page to see if you qualify.

Could the Apple Watch detect Covid-19 specifically? 

In short, no. Unless the Apple Watch starts taking swabs like current Covid-19 tests we’re fairly confident it won’t be able to determine the exact illness you have, though it may still be able to detect if you are experiencing some of the symptoms and provide you with guidance on what to do.

Apple is instead looking to be able to detect the early signs of respiratory illness in general - such as seasonal flu. This would still be very useful, as while we’ve previously taken being ill as something to just deal with, we might want to take extra precautions to not spread respiratory illnesses in the future.

When it comes to detecting the presence of any respiratory illness, the Apple Watch study might find success. Blood carries oxygen from your lungs to your organs and muscles to keep them functioning; respiratory illnesses - which affect your breathing - would likely impact your oxygen intake and oxygen levels. So, monitoring changes to your blood oxygen levels with the Apple Watch could be an effective way to know if you’re sick before other symptoms flare-up. 

Apple is likely hoping its Series 6 Watch will turn out to be an effective tool, but we’ll have to wait and see if the results of the study are in its favor. We’ll be sure to keep you updated when the study announces its findings.

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.